Are you feeling frustrated with the results you’re getting from your Google Ads campaign? Spending a lot of money, but little to show for it?

If you’re not happy with the performance of your Google Ads campaign there is one report you should review immediately, if you already haven’t.

It's a report that could reveal why your campaign isn’t succeeding. It could also show you keywords you might not be taking advantage of enough

For a Google Ads campaign to succeed you need to make sure that the phrases that trigger your ads are relevant to your business. You think you’ve made good choices, but if you look behind the curtain you might be shocked as to what you find.

Search phrases are the words you or someone added to your account. But they aren’t the exact words that trigger your ads.

Search terms in Google Ads are the actual words that people typed in that resulted in your ad being shown.

Search terms are the actual phrases people typed in to see your ads.

Even if you have a specialist or an agency running your campaign, I’d recommend reviewing your search terms at least once, if not regularly.

Your Google Ads manager might be missing things that you as a business owner or manager may discover. Or they simply might be mismanaging your campaign.

The Difference Between Search Terms and Search Phrases

Many people add keyword phrases to their Google Ads campaign believing these will be the phrases that result in their ad being shown. Those people would be wrong. And its why the search term report is so necessary to read.

When you add a keyword phrase to a campaign, you’re not just adding that specific phrase but also variations of it. Even if you use exact match.

Sometimes the change is subtle. You might be targeting personal injury attorney. You would also show for personal injury lawyer. Not too big of a difference, right.

But in other cases, the disparity between the search phrase and the search term is could be more dramatic.

Depending on the keyword match type you might be showing up for things totally unrelated. This is often the case with broad match.

The search term is plumbing school but the ad is for sewer contractor

A mechanic targeting auto repair in broad match might find phrases such as tools needed to change oil, auto manual for a dodge, or the cigarette lighter not working. All phrases not likely to result in meaningful business.

With phrase match the words that come before or after your words, might be inappropriate.

For example, you are targeting personal injury attorney as phrase match with the campaign running only in Boston.

Someone in Boston, however, could be looking for an attorney in another location. They might type in personal injury lawyer Los Angeles and click on your ad even though it specifically states you serve Boston. They just didn’t read it.

On finding phrases that don’t apply these phrases or specific words from that phrase should be added to the negative keyword list. This prevents it from happening again.

Google Ads has made changes to how they report search terms due to privacy, but one can still get a lot of information from what remains.

How To Access Your Google Search Terms Report

You can find your negative keywords in two primary ways.

The first is to go to reports at the top of your screen.

Click Predefined Reports and then Click Basic.

How to find the Search Terms Report in Google Ads

Under this category, you’ll find the Search Term Report.

Once you learn how to read the Google adwords search term reports look for wasted spend, missed opportunities.
The Search Term Report in Google Ads

The second manner is to log into a campaign and then click Keywords. Under this, you will find Search Terms.

With both of these, you can set the time frame to whatever you want. 

If it’s the first time you could try all time, but this might be a little too much. A better option is to review data for the last two or three months. You can always delve into older data later.

You can also review them in individual campaigns, or even in a specific ad group.

With each phrase you’ll see information such as the number of clicks for a particular word, the number of impressions it received, the cost per click, etc. You can also see the total spent on a particular phrase.

You might want to evaluate a single keyword to evaluate the traffic it generates. In that case, go to Search Keywords and check the box next to the word or words you want to dive deeper into.

You can see the exact words your prospects typed in that triggered your ads
Find the specific search terms for a keyword by clicking on the keyword

A blue box will appear, and you’ll see search terms there. Click that and you’ll find the phrases specific to that search phrase.

Finding Search Terms for Google Shopping Ads

Since keywords aren’t used for Google shopping ads, you might assume that you don’t have search terms. In fact, there are.

The search term report will have the terms for Google shopping included.

When you look at the keywords in your shopping campaign, you’ll see just two tabs, negative keywords, and search terms.

Finding search terms in Google Ads Shopping

Because a number of elements can trigger a product ad, you really want to monitor the phrases regularly. It’s the only way you can influence when your ads show up.

You’ll likely see products or brands you don’t offer and which you want to block. People looking for used items or wanting to find them on eBay. This is where negative keywords can be beneficial.

Finding search terms for Google Product Listing ads
Find the words that triggered your Google Products Ads.

When Reviewing the Search Terms Report Look For New Opportunities

The search terms report isn’t all doom and gloom.

You might also discover some new keywords to target.

What phrases you think your clients use; might not be the phrases they actually type in. You could find dozens of new phrases to add to your campaigns. Phrases that could result in more business.

Why add a keyword if you are already getting clicks for it?

If it’s a promising phrase you want to know how often it's used and what position you show up at. You might also want to make sure the current ads are relevant to it. If not, put it in a different ad group or create a new one.

If you are in the search term report, you’ll have to add new phrases manually.

If you are reviewing while in keywords, however, you can check the box next to it and add it directly. Just be aware that it will be added as broad match by default. Add quotation marks or brackets to avoid this.

Avoiding Wasted Spend and Improving Quality Score

One of the main reasons to read the report regularly is that your ads are likely being triggered by phrases that have no value to you.

For example, in the ad below the person is obviously searching for iPhone insurance. Yet, one of the ads is for health insurance.

The search term report on Google ads shows phrases unrelated to a business.
The above ad shows for IPhone Insurance when they actually sell health insurance.

The advertiser would only need to add iPhone to their negative keyword list to prevent that from happening. In fact, the advertiser should also add cell phone, Droid, and any other cell phone-related terms.

Not only does adding negative keywords help avoid wasted spend, but by eliminating these searches you’re lowering the number of impressions your ads receive, which is also good.

An impression is how many times your ad is shown.

Your click-through rate is the number of clicks out of the number of impressions received. The better your click-through rate, the better it is for your Quality Score.

Because of the way Google’s AdWords algorithm is, the better your Quality Score, the lower your potential cost could be. Even if your clicks don’t increase, the very fact that you lowered your impressions helped you improve your CTR.

Why Google Doesn’t Show All Your Search Terms and What to Do

This summer Google announced abruptly that it would no longer show all the search terms. They cited privacy as the reason, but few seem to accept that at face value.

They also stressed that the focus is on search terms that are low in search volume. Yet for businesses in small markets or B2B companies in an extremely specific niche, their campaigns are based on small search volume.

Whatever the motivation, accounts are seeing 20% or more of their search terms not being included in the search terms report.

Many of these phrases could be terms that you would have blocked or added negative keywords as a result. This change could be having a negative impact on your dollar line.

If you’ve been impacted by this there isn’t a lot, you can do to find those phrases.

There are a couple of suggestions I would make that might help lessen the impact.

The first is that if you haven’t gone through all your historical data, now might be the time to do it. The goal is to find more negative keywords you can add to your list.

The second step is to tighten up your keyword match types. If you’re running a lot of broad match keywords keep an eye on their conversion rate. If it starts to drop off significantly it might be time to focus on phrase or exact match.

How To See The Search Term Reports in Microsoft Ads

Microsoft Ads also reveals the search terms people used to trigger their ads, but in a different format.

Thankfully, they have not followed the lead of Google and limited our search terms. This makes their data valuable for both Microsoft and Google Ads.

To find the Microsoft ads search term report you can click on reports at the top. Then it gets a little convoluted. You must click Performance before you can see the Search Terms Report.

Finding the Search Terms Report in Microsoft Ads

Another way to access it is to click the Keywords tab. There you will find the search terms for your time frame.

As with Google you can drill down into this a little further by examining a single keyword. To do this click the checkbox next to the phrase you want to review. Then click Details and then click select.

For whatever reason I find a lot more phrases to block in Microsoft. It could be that their audience isn’t as tech-savvy and simply don’t review the ads that appear.

If you are running similar campaigns on Google and Bing, then one thing to do is add the same negative keywords to both platforms, even if the words haven't yet shown up in both search term reports.

This way you're always blocking these phrases from causing your ad to show, no matter which platform they're on.

How to Find the Search Terms For Microsoft Product Ads

Like Google Shopping ads, you can find the search terms that caused your Microsoft Product Ads to show.

To see the term here click Reports on the top of your screen and then look for Search Terms along the left. You select the date range and the campaigns you want to see the search terms for, including your Product ads. This is also another way to see the search terms for any campaign you run.

You can view the report either on the page or download it as an excel document if you wish to review it and share it with others.

How Often To Review Search Term Reports?

If the campaign has just started then I recommend checking it every few days, perhaps even daily if your budget isl arge and your keyword list extensive.

Over time you can cut this back to weekly, perhaps even biweekly, or maybe just monthly.

How often can depend on what type of keyword match types you have in your account and how big your budget is.

If you have a lot of broad match, which is never a good idea, then you’ll need to review more often.

If most are phrase or exact match, you might be able to go longer between reports once you have had the campaign going for a while.

If you have a large budget, with a lot of daily clicks, then a regular review is also critical.

Either you way you want to have a regular time frame to review it. According to Google there are billions of searches every day on its search engine and 15% of these searches are phrases they've never seen before.

Constantly review your report.

If You’re a Business Owner, Take an Active Role

Even if you have an agency or consultant manage your campaigns, I’d still recommend reviewing it yourself.

As I mentioned you might catch issues, they’ve overlooked. Or discover they haven’t been very active with your campaign.

If you’re doing Google Ads yourself or noticed that your agency hasn’t been active with your campaigns, then consider hiring a Google Ads Consultant such as myself.

Reviewing the search term report is just one of many ways I get the highest ROI for my clients.